Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ayurvedic Medicine for Spring

Spring time is almost upon us and a wonderful herb to grow in the garden is Basil (Ocimum sanctum) or otherwise called ‘Tulsi’ in Ayurvedic medicine. Tulsi appears in Hindi religious text and many stories are written about this wonderful plant. The name 'tulsi' connotes "the incomparable one" and is sacred to Vishnu and Krishna and is perhaps the most sacred plant in India. The quality of Holy Basil is said to be ‘sattvic’ or purity and opens the heart and mind, bestowing the energy of love and devotion. It is said to also strengthen faith, compassion and clarity as well as, giving protection of the divine by clearing the aura and strengthening the immune system. Besides being grown for medicinal purposes, it is kept in the house for it’s purifying influence where it absorbs positive ions, energizes negative ions and liberates ozone from the sun’s rays. It is usually found in a Hindu household and has a special place either in the courtyard or a
special place like an altar where Deities are worshipped. In the Christian tradition it is said to have grown around the place of the crucifixion and it also appears in Shiite
writings. There are other recognized types of Holy Basil and these are: Ocimum canum (Ram Tulsi or Kali Tulsi), Ocimum basilicum or bobai Tulsi, Ocimum kilmand, O. scharicum or camphor Tulsi, etc. The medicinal effect of all these varieties is very similar, if not the same. The energetic of Holy Basil is spicy and warm, making it an effective diaphoretic and febrifuge to help alleviate fevers, colds, sinus congestion, flus and most lung ailments. The particular meridians it targets are the
respiratory system, particularly the lungs and also stomach and digestive system, making it a powerful carminative and helps to alleviate stomach cramps, vomiting, indigestion,
intestinal catarrh, constipation, enteritis, whoophing cough, headaches and menstrual pains. Holy Basil removes excess Kapha from the lungs and nasal passages, which increases Prana – the intake of air and also clears the mind and memory by removing Vata from the colon and improving absorption. Other
therapeutic actions of Holy basil are nervine, antispasmodic, antibacterial and antiseptic.
It is also used for arthritis and rheumatic ailments.The aerial portions of Holy Basil are used but the seeds and whole plant is useful as well. The leaves contain a bright yellow volatile oil, which is useful against insects and bacteria. A variety of active constituents have been isolated from the leaves. The principal constituents of this oil are eugenol methyl ether, estragol with linalon and carvacrol, as well as ursolic acid, apigenin and luteolin. The oil is reported to possess anti-bacterial properties and acts as an insecticide. Ayurveda recognizes Tulsi as having several medicinal
properties have been attributed to this plant. Recent pharmacological studies have established the anabolic, hypoglycemic, smooth muscle relaxant, cardiac depressant, antifertility, adaptogenic and immunomodulator properties of this plant.
Holy Basil is used internally and can be taken as a beverage for promoting clarity of mind. For fungal infections on the skin, the fresh leaf juice is used externally. It can be used as a decoction, powder, tincture, extract and medicated ghee. Additionally, it can be cooked in food and sprinkled over a springtime salad fresh from the garden.

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